With a range officially determined by the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) of 210km, and the ability to be charged at any level of power, Renault’s new Zoe EV claims at least a couple of firsts in volume production electric vehicles. The new baby five-door, five-passenger hatch is among the first Renaults to express the company’s latest design signature, also seen in Twingo and Twizy models. It was developed under the guidance of head stylist Laurens van den Acker. Using new technologies to maximise range and ease the process of charging the lithium-ion battery pack, the new Renault EV is claimed to introduce a “new era of electric vehicles for all.” The electric motor produces 65kW of power and 220Nm of torque, which gives Zoe swift acceleration and a top speed of 135km/h. Energy recapture methods include Renault’s Range OptimiZer system using technologies including new-generation regenerative braking, a heat pump and new Michelin Energy TM E-V tyres. The Michelins come in 15-inch and 16-inch diameter and are designed to maximise range without affecting handling or safety. The heat pump system is similar to the widely used reverse-cycle air-conditioning and is claimed to operate without affecting the car’s range. Renault says the system uses just one kilowatt of electricity to generate two kilowatts of cooling, or three kilowatts of heating. But although Renault points out that the Zoe is the first mass-market electric vehicle to be homologated with an NEDC range of 210km, real-world figures are not likely to be quite as impressive. The company says that, in suburban use, Zoe will have a range of between 100km in cold weather and 150km in warmer conditions. Renault’s Chameleon charging system is claimed to open the way for a network of cheaper to build (about one quarter of the cost of existing fast-charge stations) fast-charging stations that easier to use as well. It allows Zoe to be charged in about one hour at 22kW which, Renault says, puts less pressure on the power grid than fast-charging at 43kW. Charging on a 16-amp single-phase wall box at three kilowatts takes nine hours, while fast-charging at 43kW takes 30 minutes. The Clio-size five-door bristles with technologies aimed at attracting customers keen to embrace more fully the electronic world. These include Renault’s R-Link multimedia system that features a decent-size seven-inch display, steering wheel controls and speech recognition. The system offers “integrated connectivity with motoring services” as well as other applications available through Renault’s own R-Link Store. The system also embraces a range-management display with information on energy flows and pre-programming g of battery charging, as well as a navigation system that indicates the remaining range in the battery, along with locations of the closest charging station. Through mobile phones or computers, the My Z.E. Connect package will allow user access to range-related information, remote operation and programming of battery charging and activation of the pre-conditioning system inside the cabin. The car also comes with Z.E. Voice, a choice of three different sounds emitted at speeds up to 30km/h that warns pedestrians that Zoe is in the vicinity. With the car’s green credentials it isn’t surprising Renault also offers a Zen version. White, blue and chrome trim are aimed at promoting purity, while a soft-touch dashboard provides a greater sense of caring. There’s also a “relaxing or stimulating scent diffuser” a dual-mode air ioniser, a toxicity sensor that shuts out ambient air if things get too dirty outside, and Teflon upholstery protection rendering trim material waterproof and stain-proof. But, as we all know, EVs aren’t necessarily green. “Well-to-wheel” CO2 emissions vary according to the power grids of individual countries, but Renault says emissions for Zoe in Europe work out to 62g/km, which compares favourably to 89g/km for the latest Toyota Prius. In France, where “cleaner” energy production is used -- including nuclear -- the figure is quoted at 12g/km. Renault will have Zoe on sale in European showrooms from the second half of the year. Zoe is built at Renault’s Flins plant in France, with full production of the electric motor due to get under way at its plant in Cleon from 2013. No mention of price was included in the press material, but Renault’s intention to bring EV motoring closer to the real world indicates it will be relatively affordable.